Q: You were born in Jamaica, when did your family move to the US?
HM: I was born in Jamaica and my family moved to the U.S. when I was about seven or eight. It was a transition that was really odd, because it was wintertime and there was snow on the ground. I’m a seven-year-old Jamaican kid that has never seen snow, and doesn’t even have a jacket. [laughs] So it was kind of weird. But I’m glad they did it, I’m glad. I’m so happy. I couldn’t picture myself anywhere else.
Q: But you also are a veteran of the United States Army. How did that motivate you to become an actor?
HM: I don’t know if the Army really led me to becoming an actor. It was a great, great stepping-stone that did provide a lot of benefits once I got here, because I don’t think I would be in California without having joined the Army. It did provide a lot of benefits once I got here, because I don’t think I would have gotten here in California without having joined the Army — military benefits, all these things that the military gave me after service, I literally used to live in California and pursue my dream. That was a big thing for me so I will always be grateful for that.
Q: This film has an interesting concept, and it’s done by filmmakers who are under twenty years old. What was your impression of the script when you read it for the first time?
HM: My first impression was I enjoyed it. I thought the character development of Sam was — I liked it. I liked everything they brought to the table for Sam and the other actors. I thought the story was a lot of fun mixed in with the little horror moments and the scare moments, and the mystery. I liked that aspect of the film where Sam is trying to solve this mystery of what’s happening at the store. I like that it encompassed more than just horror.
It felt like a couple of genres, honestly, were being touched on. As we were filming, I’m like, “This scene is hilarious, it would be great in a comedy.” But we’re doing a horror movie! And it fits in this, it fits great in this movie. I thought the flow of the script was great, I liked the pacing, I loved the ending, of course, how Sam finally breaks out and becomes the man that he’s been trying to be. So I thought they did a great job. It was fun.
Q: Since the director and producer and others were so young, did you give any suggestions or improve things on the set?
HM: No, for the most part they had it under control. I felt like Braden, [Swope] the director, had a very clear vision of what he wanted for Sam, and I liked that. Every day we showed up, this 19-year-old knew exactly how he wanted everything, every scene played out, exactly how he wanted it. And he got it, every single time. I’m super-proud of him, he did a great job conveying his thoughts and his words to try to get your best performance the way he wanted for that scene. We did have some improv stuff, a couple of scenes like that, but for the most part, we kind of stuck to the script and did exactly what Braden wanted us to do.
Q: In the climax of the movie, the flickering light effects were created by randomly pressing buttons on and off on the set. And they actually had a problem with their lighting system in the store. What happened, was there some kind of power outage?
HM: We were fine, yeah. There were a couple of interesting things that happened on that set. Yeah, there was a power outage, but I don’t think it really had much of an effect on the production. We had an earthquake, too, and it was my first. I’m from California and almost everybody on the set was. So I never felt that before. It was kind of weird, but it really wasn’t much of an issue.
Q: This is the debut film for director Braden, what were the surprising elements that you found about his direction?
HM: I was surprised about how prepared he was. He was 19!. At 19, I was just running around being an idiot. He was completely prepared for this, and he is completely prepared for whatever is next up. I told him, “You’re going to make a lot of money in this business. You’re good at what you do.” He edited this film, also, and he did a great job. I was surprised by his preparedness and his level of maturity that he could handle so many adults. Because all the actors were 20-plus. So he’s 19, handling people over the age of 25, 30, 45 — Gene [Anthony Candell] is like 60-something. He was doing movies before Braden was even born! So I was surprised by his level of maturity and his leadership at such a young age to handle such a pretty big situation. We shot in four locations, production days were 15, 16, 17 hours. He handled it well.
Q: So we have a director with a bright future ahead of him.
HM: I think we do. I think he has a very bright future ahead of him for sure.
Q: This film pretty much relies on your performance throughout the shoot, particularly your reactions. What are the toughest challenges that you faced during the shoot?
HM: Oh, it wasn’t that big a deal for me, and I credit that to the crew. The crew worked very hard to make all the actors comfortable, and keep us in the right state of mind and focus on the characters we were playing. Every scene was a breeze to shoot. We were fully prepared to do this project. The rehearsal time we had prior to principal filming and even when we got to set, our discussions about the scene, about what we were going to shoot. That crew got us ready. For me, I felt comfortable in all of the scenes because I was fully prepared with a lot of help from the production.
Q: In the film, various clerks work in the store and each one is different. Which character did you relate to most?
HM: Probably a mixture of Sam and Sarah, I guess. I’m not really as much of a nervous guy, but I’m not as cynical as Sarah. Maybe a healthy combination.
Q: Can you talk about shooting the end scene where you’re fighting with an axe?
HM: I love that scene. Shooting that scene was a lot of fun. We sat in a studio basically coordinating the whole thing ourselves. We didn’t really have a fight choreographer or anything like that, so we were just putting the whole scene together ourselves, going through the movements. I’m not going to lie, it was exhausting by the time we were done. By the time I did that scene I was so tired.
Q: How many takes did you guys do?
HM: Oh, I think we did five or six takes, but it was a long sequence because we swung at ten or fifteen different extras, and then recycled them through. So it felt like I was killing endless swarms of these demons. We did it quite a few times. I was drenched in goop blood stuff, it was cold, my adrenalin got pumping. I was exhausted. But it was still fun.
Q: This film has been showing around the film festival circuit and has won some awards. Have you been to any of the film festivals? What was the audience reaction to the film?
HM: I actually didn’t get to go to any of the film festivals. A lot of the film’s run, it was during the pandemic so we were kind of locked down over here. We couldn’t do a lot of moving, a couple of family members were a little more susceptible to Covid, so we just kept to ourselves. But I wish I did, though. I did get to see a lot of stuff online
, but I wish I did get that opportunity.
Q: Do you have any aspirations for behind the camera, maybe director or producer?
HM: I’ve thought about it. Now that I’ve seen what Braden and them had to deal with, I don’t know now. [laughs] It seems like such a stressful job. The acting part is easy, just learn your lines and show up, and listen to the director. Give the director what [he] is asking for. That’s easy stuff. Having to coordinate all the things that have [to be done], oh, no. I don’t think I have the kind of patience for that.
I’m living this moment like everyone else, and I’m appreciating what’s happening.
Q: What’s coming next for you?
HM: I just wrapped on a film called “The Night They Came Home”, it’s a Western about the Rufus Buck Gang. I’m one of the Rufus Buck Gang members, which stars Charles Townsend, Jesse Kove, Nicholas Rising — a lot of talented people in this cast, directed by Paul Volk. I’m not sure when it’s going to be released. We literally just wrapped two weeks ago. I’m assuming it’s going to be coming out later this year.
Q: What do you want audiences to take away from this film?
HM: I would like the audience to take away — look at Sam. I would like the audience to look at Sam and look at his progression through this film to go from this sad, pathetic, nervous, anxious kid to this axe-wielding demon killer. You can be that demon killer, too. Just go after your dreams, pursue that career you want to pursue — whatever it is that you’re trying to go after, go after it. That’s what I want them to feel. I want you to feel motivated to go out there and chase your dreams after watching this.
Q: Thank you.
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Here’s the trailer of the film.